The New York Knicks opened up a two-and-a-half-game lead for the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot with an 89-80 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday, despite the absence of the injured Amar’e Stoudemire and Jeremy Lin.
Led by Carmelo Anthony, whose 28 points where the most he has scored in two months, the Knicks won the critical matchup at Madison Square Garden against their closest pursuers for the eighth playoff spot in the East.
The Bucks led 52-47 at the end of the first half, with Mike Dunleavy scoring 24 points, including five three-pointers, but Anthony scored 14 in the third quarter to rally the Knicks to a 68-64 lead. The Bucks were unable to narrow the gap in the final quarter.
Baron Davis, who started in place of Lin, finished with 13 points and seven assists, but he also had nine turnovers.
The victory was the Knicks’ fifth consecutive win at home and their seventh in the past eight games.
The bad news is that Stoudemire, who is suffering from a lower back injury, is not expected to return anytime soon.
“He will undergo a non-surgical treatment and further rehabilitation,” the Knicks said.
“We can’t look back. We gotta continue to play and try to win games,” said Knicks interim head coach Mike Woodson, who admitted the forward might need surgery and further rehab. “If he has to have surgery, he’s got to rehab and come back.”
As for Lin, who left the court in Saturday’s game against the Detroit Pistons because of a sore left knee, he sat out the game against Milwaukee due to a sore right knee.
Lin said prior to the game that he did not expect the knee to be a major problem and that the team had decided to give him a break to avoid a more serious injury.
“We’ve just gotta take it a day at a time and hope that Lin is able to get back,” Woodson said.